A Flipper’s View: The When and What of Staging

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There are a million and one articles about staging a home for sale.  No one can argue the incredible value that staging your home brings to the table.

For the first six years of our family’s real estate investing, we were strictly fix n’ flippers.  For survival, we had to learn ways to spread the margin between our all-in-costs and the sales price of our flip.  That is when staging became a necessary tool for our business.

If you are a flipper and are desiring to learn the what, where, when, and how of staging a home for sale, let this blog be an appetizer.  I personally suggest hiring a home staging professional for at least the first flip, so you can see it done.  If you do, maximize the value of hiring that staging professional by being involved in the process and ask a ton of questions!

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The WHEN of Staging:

Many factors should be considered for the, “When should I stage my flip?” question.  There are two reasons we stage a home.  The first is to actually increase the asking price (pressing the comparables) .  The second is shortening the days on market by creating a stronger emotional response from the buyers.  If the property you are flipping can be affected in one or both of these ways, staging should be considered.  Here are a few more specific questions to ponder:

  • Is the market that your home is in have a lot of competition?  If so, then stage.
  • Is the home bland in its appearance?  Does it lack architectural detail?  If so, then stage.
  • Is the floor plan open and the spaces undefined?  If so, then stage.
  • What impact will the cost have on your profit margins?  The more expensive the home, the greater likelihood that you should stage.

The WHAT of Staging:

Staging tips are about a dime-a-dozen, so I will refrain from boring you with these.  Just Google “home staging tips” and prepare to be overwhelmed.  What I will share is our staging philosophy.

First, I need to say that we typically flip homes to middle class citizens that love to watch HGTV.  Our prospective buyers are not wealthy and they are not impoverished.  This means that we do not have to make everything perfect and our goal is to cast out a net that will appeal to the greatest number of fish.  We have our own staging furniture and after 20 moves, it has nicks and dings… but it doesn’t matter!

Staging is about creating a positive emotional response from your prospective buyer.

We focus our staging on curb appeal and the 3 main rooms of the house.  When a buyer pulls up to the house, an emotional response WILL BE elicited.  It is up to you as to whether it will be positive or negative.  You want the momentum of your buyer’s emotion to be moving towards the positive, because if it is negative, turning the ship around will take magnificence on the inside of the house.  Stand across the street from your house and see what emotion it elicits in you.  Is the grass edged around the driveway and sidewalks?  Does the garage door have dents?  Does the roof look terrible?  Can you see trash on the side of the house?  Does the front door look nice?  If need be, spend money on the curb appeal of your home.  I can’t think of a single flip where we did not paint the exterior.  The right color choices can make or break your curb appeal.

When your prospective buyer enters the home, you have about 3 minutes to WOW them or repel them.  What is going to be the most likely path of the buyer?  Living -> Dining -> Kitchen?  Work with the natural flow of the house and focus your efforts on the first 3 rooms.  We do not stage the whole house.  I personally do not believe it is necessary to stage bedrooms, laundry rooms, garages, closets, etc.   However, we will typically do a light stage on bathrooms, especially the master bath.  If the backyard has features such as a deck or kitchen or pool, we want to stage that area because of the obsession Americans have with outdoor spaces.

Staging Bonuses:

Showing excellence: We met one of our best investor partners because he walked through a house that we had staged and wanted us to do it for his flips.  He was so impressed that it moved him to connect with us.  We are NOT professional stagers, but the fact that we staged our homes the way we did created an image of excellence.  When real estate agents show your flip to their buyer, they will be very inclined to “sell” your house because of the impression that is made on them.  This is an intangible that we have found great value in.

Happy Investing!
Photo: Wonderlane

About Author

Katherine Grote, co-founder of I Buy Austin Houses.com, (Google+) has been involved in real estate for 7 years. Through her experience, Katherine has gained the expertise to sell a home fast. With experience in short sales, REO's, multi-family, and rentals, Katherine is a well-rounded licensed Realtor as well as an avid investor in residential properties.

5 Comments

  1. Katherine-

    Staging definitely helps sell houses. Most folks simply cannot imagine a house furnished. If it looks really beautiful that’s a definite bonus. Real estate investors that understand that they can sell their houses faster with some quality staging will almost certainly realize more profit from a quicker turnover and lower holding costs. Like you, I agree that it’s a great idea to hire a professional stager the first time or two. Great post.

    Sharon

  2. As a professional home stager and interior decorator, I like to think that until you have studied, read, and especially practiced home staging at least several times, you will not have the knowledge to effectively stage the many different (awkward) floor plans and styles out there! I have worked with investors who had no clue that the awkward floor plan was preventing buyers from being interested in the home (I know, because I happened to meet one of those prospects who complained the floor plan was “bizarre” and he couldn’t picture where the furniture would go.) But I applaud you for realizing the value of staging a home, which is often only a few thousand dollars, including rental furniture for 2-3 months. You want your buyers to say “your house had me at ‘hello'”!

  3. Interesting article, Katherine. Most of the open houses I go to are fully staged – beds, baths, outdoor areas, everything. I wonder if that’s a function of some of the funky layouts I’ve seen from houses built around the turn of the century? In addition, the houses without staging seem to have a lot less traffic than those with furnishings. If your market supports staging, it seems like a no brainer to me.

  4. Katherine – Great information. I’ve worked with flippers for almost 10 years now and regardless of the market, they always seem to understand that this is about making a good INVESTMENT. I wish more home sellers understood that.

  5. I am a Professional Stager and staging is an investment that is necessary to help the home sell faster and more importantly for more money. Ninety percent of people can’t see themselves living in an empty home, that is why staging is so important. We make the home more inviting and cozy and help the prospective home buyer imagine having Thanksgiving dinner, having a BBQ in the back yard, sitting by the fire or baking cookies in the kitchen. Staging is an investment in your home that is less than your first price reduction on your home.

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